tv Charlie Rose PBS September 28, 2010 12:00pm-1:00pm EDT
pretty, not everything you want to get done gets done. but it does allow for this amazing democracy and it does allow for education reform and health care reform. it allows us to move forward and get things done on energy and what we want most is... help our economy to start to thrive and grow and innovate again. >> rose: we conclude this evening with laird hamilton, the extraordinary surfer, and susan casey, the author of a book called "the wave: in pursuit of the rogues, freaks, and giants of the ocean." >> the planet is mostly ocean and life comes from the ocean. and so one of the things i really aim to do with my writing is to take people into these places and show them the incredible majesty and in some cases the fear and in some cases the wackiness. but there's, like, a parallel universe. and it's in our world that we live in. how often do we see it. >> and if you part patriot, then you'll appreciate, then you'll
revere. so all of those things i think are so critical in what needs to happen for the ocean. we need these books, we need these waves, we need people to be in awe of them maybe at first, to participate in activities and then ultimately be pro active in trying to protect the ocean. >> rose: melody barnes, laird hamilton and susan casey when we return.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: melody barnes is here, she is president obama's domestic policy advisor. since january, 2009, the white house and congressional democrats have expanded health care coverage, imposed new financial regulations, and pushed through a stimulus that many say helped end the economic recession. their efforts to reform our public education system have received praise from members of
both political parties. this morning, the president spoke about the need for education reform in an interview on the "today" show. >> when i traveled to china, for example, and i sit down with the mayor of shanghai and he talks about the fact that teaching is considered one of the most prestigious jobs and a teacher is getting paid the same as an engineer, that, i think, accounts for how well they're doing in terms of boosting their education system. having said that, what is absolutely true is that if we can't identify teachers who are subpar, give them the opportunity to get better but if they don't get better at a certain point saying these teachers should not be in the classroom, if we don't do that, then we are doing a disservice to our kids. and the school system has to be designed not for the adults, it's got to be designed for the children. >> rose: however, the white house still faces the challenge of a struggling economy and high
unemployment. melody barnes has been part of the administration from the start. she joined the campaign in 2008. she previously worked at the center for american progress and served as chief counsel to senator ted kennedy on the senate judiciary committee. i am pleased to have heifer here at this table for the first time. welcome. >> my pleasure, thank you. >> rose: great to have you here. what are you trying to say to us about education? >> well, charlie, i think this is the moment. there is a momentum that has been building over years and we've seen local school districts trying to innovate. we've heard parents' cries for help as they try to get the best education for their children. and at the same time, we realize that essentially we've been lying to our kids. we've been telling them that they can read when they can't. we've been telling them that they can do math and science when they aren't able to. we've been telling them that they are ready for colleges and for careers when they aren't. so i think that momentum has finally built to step away from those... that set of lies and to
tell our children the truth to set a high standard, a college and career-ready standard and to meet that standard. >> rose: the truth is that we have not been doing all that we should do for them in terms of providing cathedrals of education where their teachers... the best teachers giving their best to give them the best opportunity they can to find their place in society. >> rose: absolutely. and that we all have to sit at the table and prepare ourselves to meet the needs of our kids. that our economy is dependent upon it, that it is critical for our kids as... to be good citizens, to get a good education. and that if we are going to compete as a country, it's absolutely critical that they get that kind of education. it requires parents, requires teachers, requires great principals, it requires the private sector, it requires the federal government, the state government, all of us sitting around that table together and pulling the wagon in the right direction. >> rose: tell us about the
race to the top. >> race to the top has its roots in the recovery act. so during this moment of great crisis when we were also trying to save jobs for teachers and keep teachers in the classroom, we also said, you know what? we can't just keep putting money into an ailing system. we have to drive the kind of reform that we know is critical if we're going to turn things around for our kids. so we took $4.35 billion and we used that money to leverage the kind of reform that's necessary. we said, one, we have to make sure they're great teachers and great leaders in every school. two, that we have to turn around our lowest-performing schools, that's about 5,000, the bottom 5% of our schools. we also have to make sure that that our standards are high and that our assessments are appropriately measuring whether kids are learning. and we have to give parents and teachers the kind of data that they need to that they can assess whether or not students are learning and turn that
around in realtime. so those four prongs are the four pillars for race to the top. before we even put a dollar out of the door, schools started and districts, rather, started to make changes. states started to make changes so that they could compete for those dollars. getting rid of laws that we thought were restraining and shackling the kind of education system that was necessary. we said, look, this is a race to the top, this isn't a race to mediocrity, it isn't just a race to become okay. our standard will be high. so in that first round, two states-- tennessee and delaware-- received grants. we had another round and recently we announced another ten states and the district of columbia as winners. >> rose: conventional wisdom has always been or the debate has always said that teachers unions are part of the problem. so my question to you is is that a bad rep for the teachers union? and, b, what do we need to do about teachers that the teachers union somehow stand in the way? >> well, a couple of things on this.
i mean, i think one, you're right. people have set a bar for reform, and that bar is whether or not you will go after the teachers unions. and i think that that is a debate that doesn't really address the question. teachers unions are monolithic. when you look at our race to the top winners, you see teachers unions at the table with others. delaware, tennessee, doing the right thing and other places as well. so have teachers unions don some things that are not helpful to reform? absolutely. >> rose: not letting you fire bad teachers, that kind of thing. >> that's true. have teachers unions also been at the table to do the right thick? absolutely. so it's a matter of saying here's the table for reform. if you're here for kids, sit around the table and we can do these things together. and i think race to the top proves that that can be done. >> rose: charter schools? >> absolutely. we believe that within the
public school system there has to be choice and there has to be innovation. in fact, charter schools-- this goes back to your other question-- from the beginning there have been union leaders who have been supporters of charter schools. so it isn't just tension there. >> rose: but there are also people who will argue today that, you know, on close examination, you've got to make sure that charter schools are delivering on the promise that they're making. >> right. >> rose: and what are the results of that so far? >> right. unquestionably. so traditional public schools and charter schools, magnet schools, all of these should be part of the public school choice that's available to kids and to their families. at the same time, charter school isn't a magical term. just because it's a charter school, doesn't mean it's delivering. so what we've said is if you're not meeting a standard, we have to hold you accountable. if you're not accountable and kids aren't learning, you're as bad as any other school and therefore you don't deserve our resources and you don't deserve our support. we have to deliver for kid. that's the end goal. we have to get them ready for
college and career. >> rose: and so what should we expect from this administration over the next two years in terms of education and performance? >> well,... >> rose: your performance. >> right. well, one, we want to continue the work that we're doing with race to the top. because we believe that we've got these two big goals... back up. we have these two big goals. one, complete and competitive education for our students, making sure that they're college and career ready. and, two, making sure that america once again has the greatest proportion of college graduates in the world. we are sliding behind in both of those categories. so we've set those two big goals. we believe race to the top and the kind of info separation that we're doing through other programs is moving us in the right direction. we've set a high goal and now we're saying to states and to local tease, you've got great ideas, you're innovating, we want to bring these ideas to scale. >> are classroom scores an appropriate model in part of how
good a teacher is? >> yes. looking at student growth is an appropriate determinate, one appropriate are component... >> rose: growth in test scores? >> growth, yes. i mean, if you start out... if you've got a class in fifth grade and they start out on a third-grade reading level, you want to see growth at the end of the year. you've got to see growth. >> rose: we've been talking about this, but the questions there is that the united states is falling behind in k-12. >> absolutely. >> rose: yet we still have the greatest university system anywhere in the world. what is it that we have failed to do and failed badly to do that's caused us to lose our place? >> i think, again, going back to this idea of college and career ready. that's a standard that we've set. and we're giving freedom to states and districts to try and meet that standard. but it's like going on a trip. if i'm going on a... traveling from new york to california, i need to determine how... if i'm
getting there. if i find out i'm in richmond, i'm going in the wrong direction. (laughs). >> rose: yes, you are. you're going south, not west. >> you're going in the wrong direction. so we need to set a high bar and determine whether or not our students are getting there. we haven't been doing that. and we also haven't allowed our states and our districts to innovate and determine the needs of their students appropriately. we've put too tight a restraint on them while we also haven't set a standard that's high enough so that our kids can succeed and in turn go to college and on to careers and do well. >> rose: so the president comes forward today and announces what? >> so the president announced today as part of an overall effort he's put on science and math that we are going to make our big push for 10,000 new science and math teachers. and this is part of an overall strategy to ensuring that we go from the middle of the pack to the top of the pack in science, technology, engineering and math. >> rose: should they be compensated more than, say, physical education.
>> we've said where you need teachers-- because our country desperately needs our kids to succeed in this area and it's hard to recruit them-- then, yes, additional incentives. >> rose: if it takes more money to get science and engineering and computer... >> right. because exactly what you said. right now we're 21st in the world in science and 25th in the world in math. that doesn't make sense. we've got the capability. and we know that these tools are necessary for innovation. innovation is necessary for growth and competitiveness on a global stage. so we have to get our kids there. they've got to be science and math literal. we need better curriculum and more teachers that are trained in those subjects. and for underrepresented populations, we don't have enough women gong into these fields. we don't have enough people of color going into these fields. we have to make sure that everybody in our diversity is an advantage and that we are doing what it takes to make sure our kids can compete. >> rose: it must have been a very proud moment when the president signed health care reform legislation.
>> yes. >> rose: is it going to achieve the kind of cost contain ment that is also essential in terms of its its viability in the future? >> i absolutely believe that it will. and i know that people are learning more about the health care bill that we passed and they're just starting as of last week to start to see some of the benefits from it. and certainly more of them in 2014 when the entire bill goes into effect. but i think we will be able to bend the cost curve. all the numbers that we look at tell us that costs for individuals will start to go down. >> rose: they will not contribute to the deficit? >> that's... the bill that we passed was a deficit-neutral bill. >> rose: i know it was. but should you have delayed health care and focused on the economy so that there was no question that you were trying to deal with unemployment? >> no. i don't believe that. first of all, health care is an economic issue. and, during the campaign and the months leading up to the
election-- and past-- we heard businesses saying "you have got to get the health care monkey off our back. it's dragging us down, it's impossible to compete globally when we've got these rising, rising health care costs." then you look in the eyes of people who are struggling and who are desperate and they're losing their homes, they're losing everything because of health care costs, and these... you know, these are middle-class people who just want to make a way for their family. so getting health care done was integral to addressing the needs both of our national economy, the needs of business, and the needs of families. and it was also... you know, it's a walk-and-talk moment. >> rose: does that concern you, that there is this image that the president has... it's gotten some traction that the president is in favor-- because of what he had to do in terms of an emergency and the previous administration as well-- that he wants to transform the country through some kind of large government intervention? that that kind of mind-set may be setting in?
>> it does. because it's mythical. i mean, we did what we had to do, some of it unpopular, but all of it very necessary to save auto companies and make sure that a million people didn't lose their jobs and all the jobs that were related to that industry. we did what we had to do to try and stabilize our financial system so that small businesses and others could get the loans that they feed to get. and so that people could start to go back to work again so that we could keep teachers and classrooms. we had to do those things just to stabilize the economy so that we would no longer be losing 600,000, 700,000 jobs a month. and we've been able to do that, but people have this kind of bizarre view that we were looking to... for a big government takeover. >> rose: well, but they also lay some of the blame at his feet saying he has not-- for all of his communication skills-- been able to explain what he was trying to do. and they say the proof is in the pudding. if, in fact, there's this idea
there, he hasn't been able to explain what you're trying to do is not about big government, what you're trying to do is deal with an economic emergency, a car... general motors, chrysler, which were at bankruptcy's door. >> right. >> rose: and that it was essential to the moment but not reflection of a philosophy. >> well, i also want people... i hope that people will go back and listen to what the president said not long after he walked in the door. he said, look, big crisis right now, got to deal with it. but at the same time there are investments that we have to make for the long term-- education being among them, energy, economy being another big one... >> rose: climate. >> all of that was critical. that government can't and shouldn't do all of it by itself. we can't do everything. we have to partner with the
private sector to get it done and you can see evidence of that everywhere you look in the work that we're doing and also this philosophy about government that he has. his belief that, as i said, government shouldn't by... it isn't about big, it isn't about small, it's about effective. it's about meeting the needs of the people doing that which the people cannot do for themselves. and that has been a guiding philosophy in all that we've done. if you hold it up against that metric. >> rose: the perception also... and we've had many conversations at this table about this. also that when you came in with the stimulus program, two things happened. one that it was essentially written between the administration and the democrats in congress and that there was not enough reaching out to republicans at that time. >> (laughs). >> rose: and that therefore that also created... i've had people like mark halpern argue that point he wrote the political book of the season. and others. is that a criticism you don't step? that in creating the stimulus
that essentially at that moment set a patter than somehow persistd? >> i don't accept that. i think that the hand was extend ed and the extended hand wasn't always reciprocated. >> rose: they wanted to say no from the beginning would be your argument. >> i think as you said earlier, the proof is in the pudding. but we have seen areas of great bipartisanship and education being one of them. great collaboration with the business sector who recognized how important it is for the future and the growth of their companies. work with republicans, house, and senate to get this done. it doesn't mean we agree on everything and great debate is part of who we are as americans and ideological debate is fine but at the same time we have been able to work together to get important things done. >> rose: do you believe that the enthusiasm that existed in 2007 and 2008, which you were part of can be recaptured?
>> i do. and i understand... it isn't just a... understanding at a distance, you know? i go home every night, my husband is a small business owner and i see the frustration, i see the worry, i see his growing his business and hiring people. i understand the kinds of struggles what people are going through out there and how that weighs down on people. you know, those same people i was talking about that we met on the campaign trail, the president talked to thousands of them and the president... you know, those ten letters he reads every single day. and he'll come into the roosevelt where where we all meet and he'll say "what about this? how are we helping this person? does this policy solution help this person?" and days later he'll come back and say "does this fix that? because he cares deeply about those people. so all of that is having its tool. >> rose: do you think that's gotten through that? that visceral caring has gotten through? >> i think people who interact
with him, the people who listen to him, i talk to people on the street. i'm standing sometimes in the grocery store line and people will grab me and say "keep on doing what you're doing. tell the president i'm praying for him. i believe in him and we thank him." i get that all over the place. al my own church, in my own grocery store. so i think that's happening but i think as people start to see this change, start to feel the benefit of health care, start to see the benefit of what we did with student lending and how that's helping people send their kids to college, that that will start to revive and start to come back because through it all the president is saying we are americans, we can get through this, we are doing this together. we are a great nation. >> rose: i know a lot of people that worry about this and this has nothing to do with liking or disliking the president or his proposal so much. it's this genuine concern i think among a lot of people who... that we have simply gotten to a place in our
politics to almost a level of dysfunction at the political institutions that are required to do something about issues, especially the congress. so that we're not doing what we ought to be doing about climate and about... and as much as we should have done on a whole range of issues that somehow there is a kind of absence of partisanship... i mean bipartisanship do you see that? do you feel that? do you feel this government today-- republican and democrat-- has the capacity to work together to deal with these issues are so crucial to our future? i know that it can. i'm not going to pretend the frustration isn't there but looking back at 2007/2008, that still... all the ingredients for that, all those people, that still exists and that was people across geographic lines, across
age lines, across political lines being excited and feel feeling... and not just for the election of this president but feeling like they were invested. like they could make a difference. they could make a change. and that's what we believe in. that's why this work is going on at the local level that we are supporting at the federal level. i think that kind of energy will start to breed people coming together and working together for the good of their communities for their families, for their states and ultimately for the federal government because we've gotten through tough periods before. we've gotten through periods of great dissension and debate in the past. we absolutely can. we have to. >> rose: there's also this. when you look at the possibilities of change over the next two years, what is it that you want to accomplish? >> well, i think the work we're doing in education. i didn't start out working in
education. when i first moved to washington i was working on civil and constitutional rights issues and i have come to a place where i feel so passionately about this because i believe this is better educating our kids, that's the key to greater opportunity for them and greater opportunity for us as a nation. so i want to accomplish as much as possible in the education sphere and working with people. i was talking to two c.e.o.s recently, ed rust who heads state farm, bill green who heading a censure and they were saying we got together recently, we spent time talking about business and we spent a couple hours talking about education. i mean, people recognize how critical this is and how important this is and i think about the kids i encountered along the way. you look in their eyes and there's so much hope, so much desire. and i think that we can meet this. i'm energized by this challenge to meet this and i know that
this president has created an opportunity for us to work together and to get that done. so i feel very passion matily about that. >> if you come from your background you know a lot of business leaders across the country. what do you make of the divide that somehow people suggest has... exists today between the business community and the president? >> well, first of all if you look at our policy, i mean, i think an honest assessment of what we've been able to do as a policy matter has been very supportive of business and particularly small business. not everything they want. i'm not going to pretend that. >> rose: and financial regulation, although many people think they got more than they might have expected the first time. >> rose: >> so we've done what's necessary to create the kind of jobs we need in this country. small businesses in particular because they're such an engine of change. >> rose: and create jobs. >> exactly. i'm sorry they're such an engine
for the economy. but at the same time we also know that we... an unfettered economy, an unfettered economic system got us into thes me we've been in in the first place. that we got into when we walked into the white house in january of 2009. we had to address those issues. we had to do it for the american public. i believe that in our conversations both with the employee and the employer that people are coming to understand and will see the benefit of what we've been able to do because it will mean that we will never again have an economy that's sitting on top of a bubble that is so unregulated that people don't understand what they're trading, what they're buying, what they're selling and then the bubble pops and our economy falls on top of it. >> rose: when you look at health care reform, do you look at that as just the beginning? >> just the beginning...
>> rose: in other words, clearly there was... remarkable things were achieved with access and some cost containment but we look at the problems of medicare and social security in terms of the entitlement commitments this country has and the deficit we have. i'm sort of asking... this was a historic piece of legislation, nobody got everything they wanted. is it the beginning? will we see more? republicans have suggested they try to roll some of it back. is that feasible? do democrats believe they can add to it? that this was just the beginning of the change in health care that ought to take place. >> well, i think our first goal right now is to implement health care. most of the bill doesn't even go into effect until the year 2014. i think the effort to repeal health care reform, if you want to repeal provisions that allow kids to stay on their parents' health insurance until they're 26, if you want to repeal the savings to seniors who are
trying to get prescription drugs, if you want to repeople provisions that allow children with preexisting conditions to get health care, if you want to do that, go for it. >> rose: you'll go for that battle, won't you? >> absolutely. >> rose: you're willing to have that fight. >> absolutely willing to have that fight because as the american public starts to feel those benefits, what we did for men and women who sit at their kitchen table and wonder how they're going to make it work... >> rose: but my impression is for a lot of people who are proponents of health care reform and feel like... feel good about what's happened, they feel like it's halfway there. >> i think we have to put the bill into effect and implement it well and... >> rose: and see what it does. >> at the same time, the president has said i'm looking at the fiscal commission... this fiscal commission he set up, looking at entitlements to determine what has to happen so we can put our economy on a solid footing. one of the things that health care did was give medicare 12 more years of viability so
that's a benefit itself but we have to look at the pieces to the. >> rose: what do you think the bipartisan deficit commission will accomplish? >> i believe that they... and the objective was to bring people together who could look seriously at these problems, these big problems and offer solutions that we hope the system... >> rose: the system could not do standing alone. >> and help make tough decisions because the president knows they have to be made. that's the kind of leader he is. it's calm, study, practical and we've got to get it done. >> rose: i interviewed tony blair the other day and we talked about what was surprising being prime minister and he said the complexity of the problems. what surprises you being this close to the seat of power in the white house? >> you know, some days i'm sitting in the oval office and i
think it's melody barnes from richmond, virginia, sitting in the oval office and he's sitting there listening to what i have to say. >> rose: wanting you to tell him how he sod some of these issues as a domestic policy advisor. >> and that is... >> rose: tell me what we ought to do, melody. (laughs). >> and in a very, very human, very personal way that's wonderful and incredible and an honor and rumbling. at the same time, i would agree with the former prime minister as one of my colleagues often says, by the time the problems get to our desk and certainly by the time they get to the president's desk all the easy problems are gone. so it's complex and they're difficult and often you don't have... it isn't that you have the most wonderful answer and to figure it out with really smart
people in the room and thinking about those people you met along the way in the campaign and what their needs are and the president's very obvious center, his own compass and what he wants to accomplish for the better. of this nation and figure it out from there. the other thing i would say is it's like going to the beach. you go into the water and a wave comes and knocks you down and you wipe your eyes and get the sand out of your suit and here comes another wave. >> rose: you've been in the congress so you knew this but is the political dimension different than what you expected? >> what do you mean? >> >> rose: the politics of it. that good intentions are not necessarily easily accomplished. that you can believe you're on the right side of got god and somebody comes along and says "no, no, not my god." >> try again. >> rose: exactly. so it's not the merit of something, it's the politics of something that frequently
determines. >> you're right. i've lived in washington and worked in the house and senate since 1992. so... (laughs) i've... >> rose: oh, no. >> i... >> rose: this is when bill clinton became president. >> you know, i've seen a lot of what you're talking about but i also know... i remember one day sitting with senator ted kennedy in his kitchen. we were talking about this. and i was asking him, it's hard, it's complicated. and do you ever get tired? and he said our system works and when it works it is amazing. and that's so right. i have such respect for the genius of our system. it's complicated. often not pretty not everything you want to gets done gets done. but it allows for this amazing democracy and it allows for
education reform and health care reform. it allows us to get things done on energy and what we want most is... will help our economy to start to thrive and grow and innovate again and for people to have security and jobs. >> rose: one of the great tributes to senator ted kennedy was, in fact, people stepped forward to say at the time of his death was that he understood the power of compromise. he understand that legislation was a process of which people with different ideas had to come together and make compromises and he was prepared to do that. not sacrifice principle but understand you have to make compromise and you will not get everything you want but you can always come back another day. >> right. absolutely. >> rose: so what's finally your day like. what time do you get up? >> (laughs). >> rose: we all read about your marriage. it was about a year ago wasn't it? >> yes, 15 months. we're an old married couple now. >> rose: exactly. and he's a very attractive guy who i've met. what's your day like? you get up at 5:00? 4:00. >> oh, gosh. >> rose: 7:00? 9:00? >> i should get up at 4:00 so i
could do a little more exercise in the morning. i get up really early. >> rose: what's "really early" though? >> usually about 5:45 or so. >> rose: okay. so that's really early. >> it's a little dark. particularly in winter. >> rose: you get to your desk at what time? >> i'll get to my desk usually about 7:45 or 8:00. go into get ready... >> rose: brief the president everyday almost? >> we have an economic daily briefing which is not necessarily everyday but almost everyday. >> rose: does everybody speak up? mostly? >> well, they're usually presentations on various issues or roundup of the issues and a conversation and discussion. there are lots and lots and lots of meetings. >> rose: from outside and inside, congressional people and all that. staffers. >> i must talk to arne duncan once or twice a day. and... which is a pleasure.
and then other meetings and briefings with the president that are topic driven, decision driven. we'll go through a process and come to is it a or b and go through that process with him. >> rose: you eat lunch in the white house cafeteria or go out? >> going out some days seems like you might as well be going to interya. run down, grab a sandwich and bring it up. >> rose: so what time do you go home generally? most days? >> probably about 8:45, 9:00. >> rose: take work home? >> work is... it's always there. >> rose: because there's a phone call or somebody who needs something and you're the only person... >> review a document, make a decision, problem has come up, have to talk to someone. just tying to move things along. or great idea, how do we get this going? talking to my deputy heather, talking to my chief of staff or someone else on my staff or a
call from emanuel, a call from emanuel rahm, a call from rahm, a call from rahm. >> rose: (laughs) and then another call from rahm. >> or he appears. >> all that makes up the day. and i think the thing about these jobs is it that it never stops. even when it's quiet your brain is always going. you're always thinking about it. and i see that... the president and he reads these letters and these problems and all of us coming at him all the time. it's always with you. but the thing you realize is the government never stops because the needs of the people never stop. >> >> rose: and that's what makes in the the end satisfying? >> it is the most amazing opportunity. i would not trade for all of its complexity and the difficulty and the craziness, the missed calls with family and friend, i would not trade this opportunity this moment in time because it is one of the ultimate calls to service, to making it different.
we started with education when i go and i look at some kid or shaking hands at graduation and i realize we've been able to contribute or will contribute to making it better or like this for all these kids or helping all these people who need jobs, want security, want the american dream for your family, you realize you are lucky. you are lucky to serve. >> rose: thank you for coming. >> thank you so much for having me. >> rose: melody barnes, chief domestic advisor to the president of the united states. what a pleasure it is to have you. >> rose: for centuries, the existence of 100-foot waves was brushed off as myth or extreme exaggeration. only in the last ten years have scientists gathered enough evidence to conclude otherwise. laird hamilton, extreme surfer who seeks out those monstrous waves, susan casey is an author who writes about them in "the wave: in pursuit of the rogues, freaks and giants of the ocean."
welcome. so which is he? a rogue or a freak or a giant? >> i think we established that he's all three. (laughs). >> it was "yes" on that question. >> rose: (laughs) she said are you rogue? yes. are you, yes. are you, yes. so what's this book about? >> it about the most powerful force of nature i would like to say outside of the sun. giant waves in the ocean, all different kind of giant waves, rogue waves which are waves two and three times as big as the seas around them and giant storm waves that laird and his cohorts surf and then tsunamis which we got... >> rose: the monster of all waves. >> the monster of all waves. >> rose: so what's the fascination for you? what brought you to this? >> i'm very interested in things that are both beautiful and terrifying. particularly in the ocean. my first book was about a neighborhood of great white sharks and giant waves are all of those things plus there's
such a deep mystery to the fact that in the dark heart of the ocean there's so much power going on that we don't fully understand. we're not there yet it's our planet. most of our planet. >> rose: when you think of a great wave, what do you think? opportunity? >> opportunity. and the uniqueness, really, of it that they're not... i wish they were more abundant than they really are. that they're really like a fine gem or something that takes so many variables to create the opportunity that makes each one unique and special. >> rose: i said what do awe great surfers have and you said dedication. >> dead-to-waiting and being prepared for the opportunity when they come you'll be able to be there and ride them because it's such a unique situation to have everything kind of aligned. the planets, the stars, the tide, the wind all of the things come together to create the
experience that each one is so unique and so special that it takes years of your life to get the opportunity, get the experience to be able to do it. you don't just get the experience within a year because you might only get ten, 15, 20 good days during one season that's a great season. >> rose: a great season is 10, 12 days? >> of big surf, absolutely. maybe only three or four of extremely big. might be five seasons before you have a great giant day. >> rose: what makes him good? >> well, i think of laird as sort of half human and half ten municipallian. that's, like, the ultimate compliment coming from me because that's my dream is to be half human half neptunian. you know, when you see somebody absolutely in their element, that's how laird is when he's in the ocean in... particularly in
the ocean in extreme conditions. you see all the wheels in the track, he comes alive at that particular moment and there isn't anybody else who is even close to him. he won't say that but i can say that. >> rose: there's no one in second place as they sometimes say about people like him? >> no. >> rose: nobody? >> no. even now. even after being at it... >> rose: now. >> now that i'm old. >> rose: (laughs) . >> rose: see, when they start calling you a legend, you better watch out. >> i'm getting benefited from a legend. >> rose: you go from legend to lifetime achievement awards, that's what happened. >> i'm active legend. that's the difference. >> rose: (laughs) yes, that's right. (laughs). >> i don't know. i ended the book feeling as though there's no winding down happening here. in fact, he's inventing new machines, new ways to ride even
bigger waves and one of the things that i discovered in the book, i talked to a lot of scientists about waves that were happening in intense storms, say, in the north atlantic or off the southeast coast of africa that were disappearing ships and with more volatile extremes in the ocean and extremes becoming more extreme in weather and nature they believe these waves are going to become bigger and the biggest storms will become bigger. so i believe that he's going to be ready for that. >> that's really the life's goal is to be prepared. .. >> rose: for the moment? >> yeah. and you don't know when it is. it could be today. it's not going to be today but i know it could be that's the kind of notice you're going to get. >> rose: how do you know you'll be there? if you think it's a remote possibility, you here that? >> and because my life is set up so that i'm in the north pacific where the largest storms have the potential to be during the
prime system when they're going to happen. i could be sick or injured, but i'm trying to reduce the variables as much as i can so i have the most amount of opportunity by being in the right location, being physically mentally prepared and and then we let nature take its course. so far it's been delivering. >> rose: how many times have you thought you bought it? >> more than i want to count. >> rose: when you started this out, all you wanted to do was tell us about the force of great waves. the magic of them, the power of them, the fear of them, the beauty of them and what else? >> the mystery of them. >> definitely the mystery of them and how is it that it was in 1995 that scientists finally had to reckon with the fact that there are rogue waves because in 38-foot seas an 85 foot wave hit an oil rig in the north sea on
new year's day and there was really no denying it because it was measured by laser and it hit the rig at 85 feet. until then rogue waves were considered to be tall tales, mariners tall tells or if there had been a measurement and there was a spike like an anomaly, scientists would just erase that thinking that was some sort of mistake. now here was actual documented proof that this can happen and yet there was no means in our sort of understanding how the ocean works and ocean physics to explain it. >> rose: why did they think a hundred-foot wave was not possible? >> it wasn't that it wasn't possible, because imcomes along in big storms. it was that it wasn't possible in 32-foot seas. and this is the thing that a rogue wave is. it's a wave that's just much, much bigger, two, three, sometimes even four times bigger than the waves around it. why does that happen? it didn't make any sense with linear linear physics.
it took the notion of quantum physics and in particular the nonlinear slowinger quags. this is not one plus one equals two, it's one plus one equals 12. one wave comes along and pirates this energy from other waves and think didn't think it was possible. >> rose: now what is toe surfing? >> a technique we develop to ride waves that are physically impossible to ride manually in the conventional way of doing it. we started it by accident in the summer time with a zodiac boat and outboard engine towing around then we caught a wave and thought, oh, we can use this to ride bigger surf and then we implemented it in the wintertime and it allowed us to ride waves that were virtually unrideable before that. so we went from riding waves that ha had faces between 30 to 40 feet into 60, 70, 80 and up,
100-foot faces that we were able to catch the waves and we use foot straps, a jetski and a technique in this which we can get towed on to them. a little bit like the space shuttle can't fly on its own, it has to take off on the back of a plane, but once it flies it can fly around. so it's like that concept. it's an assist to get you up and on. >> rose: what do you work on to get better? >> the first thing... >> rose: is it mental, too? >> the most important thing i work on is the physical. >> >> rose: just you being... >> not only being stronger but more agile. being all around just better conditioned. which at the end... because i feel like when you're at a certain level and activity, to get better at that level of activity you're better off making the organism stronger and more efficient and then doing the activity then your improvements will be much greater if you tried to involve a level of talent you've evolved
for 30 years. the increments of learning would be so small where if you got 10% stronger you get a huge increase in your performance. >> rose: that's the extraordinary thing about all sports today is how all of them have come to appreciate and to achieve better physicality. >> absolutely. >> rose: in every way. whether it's pilates or... >> more flexible, stronger. >> rose: yoga, whatever it might be. >> which results in more mental confidence. so that's where the mental confidence comes in. if you know you're evolving stronger, more flexible, getting all the rest, all that, then you're mentally going to be a lot... >> rose: i want to show you this. >> flying. off the top of the wave. >> rose: (laughs) . go ahead. >> that picture was taken before they started wearing flotation vests and the flotation vests help them avoid being pinned down by the wave and one of the
questions that i really wanted to answer in this book is what happens if you fall on a 70, 08-foot wave? how does that work out? >> rose: so what happens? >> what happens is they're driven down very quickly, very deep, 30, 40 feet on a wave like this one and occasionally that quick pressure change can make the eardrums blow out which then, of course, affects equilibrium but the good news with the flotation vest is at least they're not going to be down there for as long as they might be they're just not sure which way is up, everything is black because of the white water and in jaws, the wave shown in this picture, there are little caves and places where a surfer can get stuck. so this extra flotation brings them to the surface. so seeing this picture of laird dropping in on a wave like that with no flotation vest is like watching somebody play a little bit of russian roulette. >> russian roulette, yeah. >> rose: so what's your level now of surfing? >> certainly you're never going to see me on a wave like this. (laughs).
>> rose: of course not. >> but i think where i got to the point where i could be on a jetski near a wave like this and if i fell in or got tangled up i could have survived. i wore the same safety gear they did. i have a lot of experience as an open-water swimmer but i'm never going to be a great surfer. >> rose: do you have a passion to get better and better? >> i love surfing. z i think if you start it later in life like i did there's a limit. but there's a new... >> rose: there's a wall you bounce up against? >> there's only so many times i really want to take a terrible fall. but it's... i have to say there's something about it. >> rose: we have a new technique of surfing with a pad where will you stand and you paddle with a paddle. it's an old discipline but we're... >> rose: it's got an lot of attention this summer. there was a big article in the "new york times" about it. >> it's incredible. >> rose: why? it's something i want to do. >> first of all because you're standing on the water so the position is a great position to be in so you're up and your visibility is in increased.
that's good. your hands and legs aren't in the water which people don't necessarily like all the time because what's in the water they don't know. so they have a psychological aspect. and the fitness of it because the whole body, abs, feet, hands. and then we... we surf big waves with this as well. so it's a whole... there's a... it allows people that don't surf to get out and ride a board on flat water it allows a bigger spectrum of people to participate in the sport of surfing which a discipline like riding jaws you're going to have very few people do it. >> rose: do you know why you like this kind of thing? >> i can always just remember being so fascinated with water. and i actually don't do that well on land. i... >> rose: (laughs) yes? no, stop, explain that to us. >> i don't know. i just always feel like a little bit... i'm always a little bit klutzy. but in the water that's kind of where it all comes together. >> rose: more at home in the water than walking? >> for sure. >> rose: (laughs) maybe because when you're in the
water you're busy? >> i don't know there's a sense of freedom. you're weightless. it's beautiful. i love the creatures that are in the water. and i mean all of them. >> rose: your great line is that... >> she's a shark whisperer. >> rose: a communion of spirits. >> multiple times she says to me you wouldn't believe what happened? i said you saw another giant shark when you were swimming? she's like how do you know? >> rose: i love that you said the ocean is my church. >> i think we share that sentiment. >> my dad said once big wave riders are born not made. like susan's love for the ocean. she was born it with. i don't care if you're born in the mid-of texas. enough thing, a desire, it draws you to it. you're drawn to it you don't know why. you have a connection and susan has a connection with it like i do. like anybody that does. you have that connection and just a matter of fulfilling your destiny. >> rose: i think we innately do because the planet is mostly
ocean. and, you know, life comes from the ocean and so one of the things i really time do with my writing is take people into these places and show them the incredible majesty and in some cases fear and whackiness. but there's a parallel universe in our world but how often do we see it? >> i think we have the common goal in that sense that that's been one of my desires is primary goal is to have people appreciate the ocean more and through that appreciation protect, respect, all the things it means. >> rose: if you appreciate you will revere. >> absolutely. and if you participate you'll appreciate, then you'll revere. all of those things are so critical in what needs to happen for the ocean. we need these books. we need these waves. we need people to be in awe of them maybe at first. to participate in activities and then ultimately to be pro-active in trying to protect the ocean.
>> rose: if you see a great white shark, you can never think that, oh, who cares, sharks go, you can never think they're... >> rose: how big is a great white shark? >> they can be all different sizes. >> rose: i've seen them at monterey at the aquarium there. >> yes, which that's fantastic even though, yeah, it's in captivity. as i said if you see one it will change your life. that's really a small one, like a five... they basically come in a box five feet long. but 13, 14, the female cans go up to 20. and a 20-foot great white shark is eight feet wide. it's more like an orca. >> kind of like a cadillac. wide as the road. >> rose: there was a shark called the cadillac. >> i bet. >> rose: have you noticed how you two can finish each other's sentences. >> she can speak for me now. >> five years. >> rose: how many years? >> five years. >> how many hours? how many hours? >> a lot. >> rose: congratulations. >> thank you very much. >> rose: i'm so happy you came. this is really... the thing is
that's great about it for me, too, nobody owns it. >> nobody. >> rose: nobody tells it what to do. >> and the ride is free. you don't pay for these rides. these are free. it might cost you more than you want to pay. (laughs). but they're free to start with. >> rose: exactly right. >> it's a beautiful thing. >> rose: take a board and take a dedication and you're on your own. >> absolutely. and there's no wrong way. >> rose: thank you. the book is called "the wave: in pursuit of the rogues and freaks and giants of the ocean." jierks
captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org words alone aren't enough. our job is to listen and find ways to help workers who lost their jobs to the spill. i'm iris cross. we'll keep restoring the jobs, tourist beaches, and businesses impacted by the spill. we've paid over $400 million in claims and set up a $20 billion independently-run claims fund.